The numbers tell the story. After 20 years in Afghanistan a total of 2448 members of the U.S. military were killed in action. I know those losses are incalculable for the families who lost a son, daughter, husband or wife. But that equals the number of U.S. soldiers who died on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.
Now, let’s look at how many Americans were murdered in 2019 and 2020 in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago–2916. In other words, your son or daughter–especially if they are black or Latino–would have been safer in Afghanistan on military deployment than walking the streets of the three large American urban nightmares.
I want to be clear that I am not questioning nor disparaging the blood, limbs and sanity that the American military veterans and their families have shed over the last 20 years in our so-called “war” in Afghanistan. There is no denying that a civil war has ravaged the mountains, valleys and deserts of Afghanistan, but the United States has not fought a sustained war. Look at the following graph. It was only during the reign of Barack Obama that our troop levels soared from 30,000 to over 100,000.
Yet, that level of military activity was not sustained. This was sold to the American public as a “counter insurgency” campaign, but we were not about “winning.” (And I am not trying to advance the argument that if only we had deployed 500,000 troops we could have “won.”)
Here is the ugly truth–Afghanistan was an excuse to justify a bloated Defense Department budget and a guaranteed payday for hordes of politically connected contractors that now infest the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
Because we were not fighting a real war, with the massive casualties that normally accompany such an endeavor, we could pretend we were fighting for a worthy cause but did not have to pay attention or worry about waning public support. But this half-assed approach to combat operations allowed a generation of incompetent officers to earn promotions and advance in rank. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley are prominent examples of this dysfunction.
While the Austins and Milleys worked on raking in cash, the average frontline soldier and Marine suffered. While the number killed and wounded is low compared to the carnage of Vietnam or Korea or WW II, I wonder if the number of returning veterans who have wrestled with PTSD and committed suicide exceeds the total we lost in “combat” in Afghanistan.
There needs to be an accounting and the leaders, both military and political, responsible for this debacle need to be judged.